You probably always hear that managing your time is an important skill to have. But is time management really as important as it seems? The fact is, struggling too hard to manage your time could actually be a bad thing. But not managing your time at all can also be a disaster! That’s why the key is in knowing when to stop managing your time and start making progress.
The problem with prioritization
In a nutshell: all the time you spend prioritizing your work is time you could’ve spent doing it. Let’s say you get a lot of emails every day. Before you reply to any of them, you check the entire inbox to choose the email that you think is the most important and reply to it first. Then you do it all again. The bigger your inbox is, the bigger is the time you’re wasting scanning all those messages before replying.
In this scenario, you’re spending more time ranking your tasks than the time you spend doing them. Some email services do a great job at labeling emails as primary, social, updates, etc… These can be treated as priority buckets. Instead of choosing the most important email to reply to, reply to any of the emails that are in your primary label. The same goes with any other tasks you have. Instead of spending a lot of time deciding the exact order of the tasks, just assign them priorities (as labels, not numbers) and start with any of the ones with a higher priority.
So should I manage my time or not?
Prioritization is always essential when doing your tasks. The trick is to not over-prioritize. By using priority buckets, you’re not being very precise about what task to do next. However, you’re making up for it by spending more time making progress. Sometimes, giving up on doing things in the perfect order may be the key to getting them done.
One more thing you can do to choose which task to do next from your bucket is by using some sort of strategy. Some examples of these strategies are:
- Earliest Due Date: You pick the task that has the closest deadline.
- Shortest Time: You pick the task that needs the less time to complete.
- First Come First Serve: You pick the task that came first. In the case of emails for example, you reply to your oldest emails first.
There are so many strategies you can use, but make sure you also aren’t overusing them. Sometimes, picking the task that fits your current mood can be more productive than any strategy! As long as you’re classifying your tasks in priority buckets, you’ll still be doing a good job at managing your time regardless of how you choose the next task from the bucket.